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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 21 June 2005


Trafalgar 200

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The Royal Navy will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar and the death of Admiral Lord Nelson with a special programme of events in Portsmouth and the Solent between 28 June and 3 July, and then in London and Portsmouth over the anniversary weekend 21–23 October. A wreath will be laid off Cape Trafalgar on 21 October, the actual anniversary, and there will be commemorations in Gibraltar in late October.

The Royal Navy's Trafalgar 200 programme forms part of the Trafalgar festival which is at the heart of the SeaBritain 2005 initiative sponsored by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. SeaBritain 2005 aims to raise the profile of the United Kingdom's maritime interests. The Trafalgar 200 programme of events will also strengthen the Royal Navy's maritime partnerships, help develop interoperability and build on multinational maritime cooperation. The Trafalgar 200 programme provides a major vehicle for the Ministry of Defence to promote public awareness and support for defence in 2005.

The Trafalgar 200 programme starts with an international fleet review in the Solent on 28 June 2005 in the presence of HM the Queen, members of the royal family, Ministers and Heads of foreign navies. Some 160 vessels, comprising Royal Navy, foreign warships and auxiliaries, merchant ships and tall ships, will take part in the review, which will conclude with a flypast of 50 aircraft. In total, 36 navies are expected to send ships, with 57 heads of navies in attendance. There will be a Son et Lumiére on the evening of 28 June 2005 in the approaches to Portsmouth harbour which will illustrate an early 19th century sea battle. While not a full re-enactment of Trafalgar, the show includes aspects of the battle, notably Admiral Lord Nelson's death at the height of the action; it will involve some of the world's finest tall ships. On the 29 June an international drumhead ceremony will be held on Southsea common in the presence of HRH the Duke of York, accompanied by HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The ceremony will honour maritime veterans of all nations and commemorate those who have given their lives in conflict and service in the Armed Forces. Finally, and international festival of the Sea will be held from 30 June to 3 July 2005 in HM naval base Portsmouth. In addition to a significant number of the warships and tall ships taking part in the fleet review, a substantial number of smaller vessels will join the festival which will be open to ticket-paying members of the public. The festival will showcase Britain's armed forces with displays by members of all three services.
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The programme of events in the autumn will commence with wreaths being laid off Cape Trafalgar and at Nelson's tomb in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral on 21 October 2005, the 200 anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar and the death of Admiral Lord Nelson. As is customary, a service will also be held onboard HMS Victory in Portsmouth. A special VIP dinner will be held in HMS Victory on the evening 21 October 2005. On the morning of 23 October the sea cadets will conduct their annual parade in Trafalgar square and in the afternoon a national service of commemoration for all those who fought at Trafalgar will be held in St. Paul's Cathedral, in the presence of senior members of the royal family. In the evening we plan to hold a public celebration of Britain's maritime heritage ("past, present and future") in the special setting of Trafalgar square.

Although not formally part of the Trafalgar 200 programme in the United Kingdom, events are also planned to take place in Gibraltar during the weekend of 28 to 30 October to commemorate the close historic links between Gibraltar and Admiral Lord Nelson's victory. In addition to a service of remembrance at the Trafalgar cemetery, there will be a Nelson exhibition, beating retreat and a Royal Navy ceremonial guard mount at the Governor's residence. The Royal Navy has also been invited to exercise their freedom of the city privileges.

Lying at the heart of SeaBritain 2005, the Trafalgar 200 programme represents an exciting and high profile series of events, funded through a combination of public funding and commercial sponsorship and revenue, commemorating our greatest naval hero and a major milestone in maritime history. The last fleet review by Her Majesty the Queen was held to mark the Silver Jubilee in 1977. There have been international festivals of the sea in Portsmouth in 1998 and 2001.

Armed Forces (Redundancy)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): Current redundancy compensation terms for members of the regular armed forces have remained largely unchanged since the early 1970s and do not reflect changes to re-employment prospects or in wider Government policy for this area. Nor do they take account of the changes in benefit structure made under the new armed forces pension scheme. They have therefore been reviewed, working closely with the single services and I now wish to announce the outcome of that review.

The new terms are designed to compensate fairly those whose careers are prematurely shortened as a result of redundancy, and are to be used as part of any planned restructuring of the armed forces as announced by the Secretary of State for Defence from time to time. The Ministry of Defence has two schemes which provide normal early-leavers' benefits for the regular armed forces—one relating to the 1975 pension scheme and one to reflect the changes made to the value of mid-career benefits with the introduction of the new 2005 scheme. Despite the differences between these two schemes, the redundancy packages for each scheme will be broadly comparable.
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The new terms will continue to be made up of a one-off tax-free lump sum which, for those serving until or beyond mid-career, will be supplemented with an immediate pension paid under the armed forces pension scheme 1975 (AFPS 75) or income paid under the 2005 early departure scheme. The size of the lump sum and of the annual pension or income stream will, as now, vary according to length of service and pay. The 2005 terms will apply to all new entrants from 6 April 2005, but from 6 April 2006 for those who were in service on 5 April 2005 and who decide to transfer to the new pension scheme. The existing terms, as set out in AFPS 75, will remain unchanged until 31 March 2008 when the current drawdown in service manpower announced in July 2004 by the then Secretary of State is due to complete. They will then be replaced by new terms which, in particular, will defer the point at which the current very early immediate pension is paid. This can currently be paid from age 30 but in future only a lump sum will be paid at this very early age. To ease the transition, the replacement terms for AFPS 75 will be phased in over a five-year period from 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2013, after which the final terms will apply.

The new arrangements will provide the armed forces with cost-effective arrangements for managing any major drawdown in the level of service manpower and are expected to meet fully the manning needs of the armed forces. Although less valuable in a number of respects than the existing terms, they remain generous by wider standards, as befits the special demands of a career in the armed forces; they reflect changes in wider Government policy for public service schemes; and they are fair with respect to the relationship between level of compensation and length of service. Additional general information on the new arrangements is available on both the MOD's intranet and internet sites, while detail about the new terms will be made public when work on drafting the new rules has been completed.

I am today placing copies of the defence instructions and notices (DIN) on the new redundancy terms in the Library of the House. It is also being placed on the Ministry of Defence website at: www.mod.uk/issues/pensions/.

Omagh Battalion

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): As part of our normal process of keeping force levels under review, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Northern Ireland, in consultation with the Chief Constable of the PSNI, has concluded that once the 1st Battalion King's Own Scottish Borders come to the end of their tour as the Omagh resident battalion in August 2006, there is no requirement for them to be replaced.

This change is based on the GOC's and Chief Constable's assessment of the security situation, and reflects the increasing success of the PSNI in dealing with the threat from terrorism without routine military support. The Army remains committed to providing the support that the PSNI require to counter the threat from terrorism and to prevent potential public disorder. Consequently, we will continue to keep force levels in Northern Ireland under regular review.
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